Important amendments were made to Hong Kong's sex and disability discrimination legislation last week in the Legislative Council. The result is that the law can now be better able to serve the people it is supposed to protect. Previous to the amendment, a victim of work-related sex discrimination, or of sexual harassment in the workplace, could not obtain more than $150,000 in compensation. A victim of any form of disability discrimination could not claim more than $120,000. The damage caps had the effect of deterring recourse via litigation. Contrary to the usual practice in civil proceedings, an award of costs is not normally available under these claims. A victim of discrimination must therefore plan on paying litigation costs out of damage he or she is awarded. But no one can stay in court long on those maximum sums. The effect of the caps was that victims of discrimination would just have to swallow their hurt and humiliation, while any discriminator with moderately deep pockets could rest assured that he or she would not be sued. The caps had the ridiculous effect that even when unlawful discrimination was proven in court, and even if the actual damage exceeded the caps, the victim could not get his or her just compensation. The very laws that were supposed to uphold equality of people had put a low price on victimisation. One would have thought such obviously beneficial amendments to the law should have sailed home easily in the legislature but they were hard won. First of all the Government was very much against them. The reasons it gave were spurious: there had been no court cases since the laws came into force last year; no evidence there was anything wrong with the law; it wanted to wait before making changes otherwise the public would be confused. Secondly, a number of legislators were willing to delay rectifying defects in the law, and instead, passed the buck to the Equal Opportunity Commission and the Government to carry out a review later in the year. Luckily, the amendments did get passed. It was shocking that the Equal Opportunity Commission itself did not even wish to express a view on the amendments. It said that it preferred to wait for its own review. What made the Government so hesitant about accepting these and other amendments to equal opportunity laws? It may be that the Government feels particularly sore about this area of policy and law because it was not the initiator. Indeed, it was only in 1993 that the Government argued the whole area of discrimination did not merit legislation. It was forced to carry out a consultation on sex discrimination by legislators. It was also embarrassed by a number of high profile, heart-breaking cases of disability discrimination and realised that nothing short of legal protection for victims would do. Nevertheless, the real initiative was made by former legislator Anna Wu Hung-yuk. In her three years in the legislature, she put her heart into drafting a comprehensive set of anti-discrimination laws. The response from the public was positive and in the end it forced the Government to draft its own sex and disability laws in order to out-manoeuvre Ms Wu. I took over her work in the hope that what she started could continue. Her efforts remain the only successful attempt by a legislator in setting-out a whole area of law and policy. The Government did not like being challenged and shown wanting. It dug its heals in with her and with me. What does the future hold? The work on building-up and anti-discrimination culture is not finished. I hope the Government will feel more gracious about working with others in this important area.